This paper reviews the ‘long twentieth-century’ development of ‘modern’manufacturing in Sub-Saharan Africa from colonization to the present. We argue thatclassifying Africa generically as a ‘late industrializer’ is inaccurate. To understand thedistinctively African pattern of manufacturing growth, we focus our discussion on thedynamic interplay between the region’s specific endowment structures, global economicrelationships and government policies. We conclude that the case of Sub-Saharan Africa isbest characterized as interrupted industrial growth instead of sustained convergence on worldindustrial leaders. This is partly because, until very recently, the factor endowments made itvery costly for states to pursue industrialization; and partly because successive rulers,colonial and post-colonial, have rarely had both the capacity to adopt and the dedication tosustain policies that modified the region’s existing comparative advantage in primaryproduction, by using their fiscal and regulatory powers effectively to promoteindustrialization.